Some highlights from this past week’s Theopolis course on “covenant epistemology,” taught by Esther Meek. 1) Using the journey of the Magi as a paradigm of knowing, Esther described knowledge as a venture or adventure, a pilgrimage toward a gift. That is a lovely description that nicely captures much of Esther’s covenant epistemology. It captures the excitement of discovery; the social character of the enterprise of knowing; the fact that knowing involves movement and growth. Unlike many epistemologies, Esther’s focuses… Read more

What Esther Meeks calls the “defective epistemic default” of modernity infects and paralyzes biblical interpretation. In this default, knowledge is defined as information. This can only produce puzzlement about the details of the Bible. They aren’t symbols; they aren’t clues; they text isn’t pregnant with meaning. The details are there as mere bits of information. Why, for instance, are we told that Goliath had a bronze helmet and scale armor and bronze greaves on his legs? Why are we told… Read more

Jesus turned water to wine at the wedding to Cana. It’s the first sign, John tells us (John 2:11). It’s an epiphany of the Word made flesh. Of what is it a sign? The wedding takes place on the “third day” (2:1), which is the seventh day in the sequence of days in John’s first chapter. Throughout Scripture, a third day is a day of new birth (when the grain and fruit trees spring from the ground) and with transitions… Read more

For our culture, real knowledge is the bits of data we accumulate by observation and experiment to store in our brains. Once harvested, knowledge is an impersonal and atemporal heap of information. In the Bible, knowing isn’t so simple. The Bible forces us to ask, When? How? and Who? God planted two trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam was allowed to eat the fruit of life from the outset, but he… Read more

Adults in the Room, Yanis Varoufakis’s account of his brief time as the finance minister of Greece, has all qualities of a tragedy. It is, Varoufakis writes, “the story of what happens when human beings find themselves at the mercy of cruel circumstances that have been generated by an inhuman, mostly unseen network of power relations. This is why there are no ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies’ in this book. Instead, it is populated by people doing their best, as they understand… Read more

A couple of excellent passages from Paul Tyson’s De-Fragmenting Modernity. First, this on how modernity’s “immanent frame” (Charles Taylor) not only prevents governments from addressing social problems, but actually creates conditions that cultivate the problem in the first place (2-3): “At a policy level, we are more or less locked into seeing ‘mental health’ answers to the youth suicide problem, so we put psychologists at the front line of strategic planning to reverse the problem. But to do so is… Read more

Yahweh speaks the Ten Words to his son, Israel. The Words are ultimately pointing to the Son, who takes flesh to become true Israel. The Ten Words speak of Jesus, and Jesus is the final interpretation of their demands. “Honor your father and your mother,” the Lord says, and Jesus embodies perfect honor to His father and mother. Jesus slips away from his parents while they’re in Jerusalem, demonstrating, as Barth says, that children may honor their parents against their… Read more

The fifth commandment – Honor your father and your mother – is a counter-cultural demand. Many in our time live according to the 1960s maxim, Question authority. It’s apparently an authoritative command, and it applies in the family as well as everywhere else. But the counter-cultural character of this commandment runs even deeper. It’s not just the commandment itself that violates contemporary norms. The social picture assumed by the commandment has disappeared in many places. The command to “honor” assumes… Read more

English translations typically say that Israel remembers the Sabbath to “keep it holy.” That implies that the day is already holy, and that Israel maintains its holiness by ceasing. That is true; Israel’s consecration of the day depends on Yahweh’s prior consecration of the day (v. 11). In some places, the Lord commands Israel to “guard” the Sabbath, which implies that it is a holy thing that must be protected from profanation. But the verb is more direct. It simply… Read more

The Fourth Word begins with: “Memorialize the day of ceasing to sanctify it.” I’m using the verb “memorialize” or “commemorate” rather than “remember.” It’s not a command to “call to mind.” Of course, Israel isn’t to forget. But it wouldn’t be enough for Israel to call the Sabbath to mind without actually practicing the Sabbath. The Fourth Word is a command about a set of practices, certain things that Israel is supposed to do or not do. It’s like the… Read more

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